/ Startups

SaaS stack of a one year old start-up

According to this analysis, the average start-up is using over 50 different SaaS products across the company.

I tallied up what we're using here at Personably as we build our new hire onboarding tools. Not including our actual tech stack we're already at 14. After only a year. We use tools where it will make us more productive. That can mean buying the best in class solution for our use case. But it can also mean sticking together free products where we don’t need something full featured yet.

The bit that I thought was interesting enough to warrant a blog post was how this has changed over time. (TLDR, we're using: Google Drive, Calendar, Slack, G Suite, Namecheap, Asana, Drift, MailChimp, Twitter, Trello, Ghost, Linkedin Premium)

3 months in

What were we doing?
Validating the problem and building an early version of the product. A lot of coffee meetings later we'd learnt that contrary to our initial thesis, a) it wasn't just engineering teams that had trouble onboarding their new hires, b) it wasn't just fast-growth companies.

Which tools did we add?

  • Google Drive - Shared folder attached to our personal emails. Used to store notes from the conversations we’d been having.
  • Google Calendar - Shared calendar for all the meetings.
  • Gmail (Lewis quit inbox after a short trial) and Google Inbox (that Gmail UI is just terrible) - for arranging all the meetings. Still using our personal emails.
  • Slack - Sending each other articles, planning, day to day conversations. Things were getting lost with the previous email + WhatsApp combination.
  • G Suite - We didn’t start using company emails until a few months after this as we hadn't set on a company name (working title - Coro). We needed the G Suite account for developing our scheduling integration. It’s also why we had more G Suite users than we did employees.

Cost per month: £16
£16 (4 x GSuite basic license)

6 months in

What were we doing?
Becoming more official. We registered the company (as Coro Ltd.) and within a matter of weeks decided on the name Personably (sigh). Our first trial companies (hey Monzo and GoCardless) were increasing their use of the product and giving us a tonne of feedback. We were also building a pipeline of new companies we thought would be a good fit, starting to reach out and planning the next feature set.

Which tools did we add?

  • Namecheap - to buy our domains and finally start using company emails.
  • Asana - for a CRM and non-technical task list. I evaluated a few CRM products (Close.io, Pipedrive, Salesforce) as well as other tools that might do the job - (Airtable, Asana, Google Sheets). I needed a list, where you could add more details to each item over time and assign due dates and tags. I didn’t feel we needed a fully featured CRM and Sheets and Airtable felt too hacky. Asana fit the criteria.
  • Drift - with more people using Personably we hadn't met everyone that interacted with the product anymore. In app chat was a low touch way to gather feedback and answer support questions. We chose Drift as it had in app chat and a Slack integration at a price we could afford. (Intercom have a good starter pack at a certain size but it was still too pricey for us at this point)

Cost per month: £38
£16 (4 x GSuite basic license) + £16 (2 x Drift seats on the free tier) + £6 (Namecheap - for the various domains)

12 months in

What are we doing?
We have more usage (more companies, hires and users), more nuances built into our scheduling feature set and a shipped version one of the next part of the product. We’re also being more public about what we’re building and looking for where we can lose the manual things that worked at a smaller scale.

What tools did we add?

  • MailChimp - we needed to send out feature releases via a list instead of trying to remember everyone to include. We also now send out welcome emails on sign up and are about to start using Mandrill (their transactional email api) for password resets and invite emails.
  • Ghost.io - probably a whole other post on all the advice we got about setting up the blog but we went with the Ghost hosted version. Easy to hook up to a subdomain, customise with our branding, you can create posts directly from their CMS and attach google analytics. Other options were Medium (well designed but not flexible enough) and WordPress (couldn’t bring myself to use it).
  • Google Analytics - so we can see how many views we’re getting on the blog.
  • Twitter - wanted to separate the company from my personal twitter feed and kick off being more public about what we’re working on. A little more useful content related to improving the employee experience.
  • LinkedIn premium - I could write a book on all the things wrong with LinkedIn right now. Since I’m doing more qualifying of companies we want to work with I had to upgrade to stop getting throttled on the number of searches. Their “business insights” also gives me more accurate employee numbers and hiring rate indicators than I can find anywhere else. But I still resent this.
  • Trello - for our semi-public roadmap. We loved what Monzo and Buffer did here and thought it was a transparent way to keep our customers updated with what we’re working on.

Cost per month: £105
£16 (4 x GSuite basic license) + £16 (2 x Drift seats on the free tier) + £6 (Namecheap - for the various domains) + £17 (1 x Ghost personal) + £50 (1 x Linkedin Premium subscription)

What would I do differently?

Actually, not a lot. I think we should have picked a company name and used those email addresses sooner than we did. We looked earlier stage than we were for longer as a result. We also should have put our users into a MailChimp list so we could contact them all at once sooner.

I know this list will keep evolving as the company progresses. It would be interesting to hear from anyone further along on how things have changed for them. Let us know @personablyco.